The ongoing bathroom debacle at the San Jacinto Park clearly demonstrates a dysfunctional El Paso city government. As if the fact that restrooms aren’t important enough for the focal point of the much-touted downtown revitalization project the excuses after excuses mounted by the dysfunctional city council betrays the utter stupidity that drives city government.
The often-cited reason for not pursuing the installation of bathroom facilities at San Jacinto is cost. It has been reported by the news media that the city estimates that installing toilets at the park would cost about $400,000. The city government has also argued that it was too late to make substantial changes to the scope of the project. Another argument by the politicos is that the maintenance of the bathrooms would be too costly.
Let’s focus on these to two things for a moment.
On February 10, 2015, the El Paso city government issued a press release titled; “City of El Paso fine-tunes design at San Jacinto Plaza by adding amenities, maximizing open space.” The local news media dutifully reprinted the press release as a news report. Great, I thought to myself, they finally came to their senses and added restrooms. But no, this is El Paso’s incompetent leadership in full display.
Hidden in the public relations release are a few inconvenient facts. The city told you that it would be adding new amenities to the plaza; they are calling it a plaza after I pointed out it was not a community park. Anyone away from home would likely tell you that a restroom is much more of an amenity then moving electrical cables to below ground or putting a canopy over a plastic statue.
Yes, I agree that protecting the Luis Jimenez Los Lagartos public art is a laudable goal but compared to access to a toilet, I am willing to bet that most taxpayers would ask for the bathroom over the canopy. Most would even argue that a bike share program for a city where temperatures rise over 90 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer is not conducive to a sustainable project. Oh, of course, the inconvenient fact that El Pasoans are generally obese doesn’t factor into their thinking process as well. Don’t believe me about the obese in El Paso? Take a look at your city representatives next time they gush over their intelligent decisions on television. You will be seeing more of the best examples as the political season starts up in the next few days.
The San Jacinto Plaza project is severely behind schedule. I previously submitted an open records request for change orders issued to the contractor on the project and so far, the response has been that there is none. Yet, the public commentary is that there are numerous change orders that have been issued. I will submit another request but as you know, the responses I receive for my open records often contradict the public record so I am not really sure we will ever fully understand the scope of the incompetence the San Jacinto project has become.
The bathroom debate has been ongoing for many months now with much public posturing but no actual attempt to resolve the problem. The city has finally acknowledged that they are behind schedule. They have also acknowledged that they have had to make modifications to the project as late as a few weeks ago.
Yet the only response to the lack of toilets has been that those needing a bathroom could simply walk into an establishment and use the bathroom without buying anything. The argument being that the law does not allow private businesses to deny anyone the use of a bathroom.
Hmmm, really? Ask the next homeless person you see downtown if Foster’s fancy restaurant allows them to use the toilets in the restaurant. I’m sure they’ll all happily tell you how clean and comfortable they are.
Sure, the law may be there but whom do you think the local police department would side with when called by the restaurant owner to report trespassers?
Better yet, ask yourself this simple question. The city has argued that keeping the bathrooms clean is an expensive proposition. How is it that they can be allowed to accept this as a fact and then immediately turn around and impose that expense on a private, taxpaying restaurant owner? I would argue that imposing this added expense on the restaurants is yet another hidden tax the El Paso city government is notorious for.
I am routinely accused of complaining but not offering solutions.
Therefore, I am going to break from the tradition and offer the incompetents a simple solution to the lack of bathrooms in the city’s downtown redevelopment focal point.
How about open up the bathrooms of the city’s ballpark 24/7?
The city taxpayers’ paid for the stadium. The stadium is public property and importantly it is also another major focal point of downtown redevelopment.
It is a simple solution but there will be all sorts of excuses as to why that cannot happen. The bottom line being that the city’s overloads wouldn’t want the city’s unwashed laborers to use their bathrooms. Because the sad fact is that the lack of bathrooms at San Jacinto is purposely done to keep the Mexicanos out.